Leaders of Commission of European Union and 27 member states of the EU will gather in Berlin to commemorate the 50th anniversary of singing of the Treaties of Rome from March 24 to March 25, 2007. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier received an exclusive interview from the People's Daily's Germany-based correspondent Lv Hong just before the commemoration.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Lv:What significance does the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome have?
Steinmeier: The 50th anniversary offers us as Europeans the opportunity to look back on a unique success story. We can be proud of what we have achieved. The rebuilding of Europe following the horrors of the Second World War, reconciliation of nations, and finally, the overcoming of the continent's division. Today, Europe is a prosperous continent with 450 million inhabitants. We can travel within Europe without border controls, and we have a common currency.
But the 50th anniversary is also an opportunity to look ahead. We embrace the values of diversity and tolerance. We embrace human rights and democracy. We are willing to shoulder responsibility in the world. We want to help shape globalization and do our part in climate protection. And we want to cooperate with other important states, such as China, to ensure that our world remains inhabitable for future generations.
Lv: What does Germany want to do to develop the EU during its EU Presidency?
Steinmeier: As holder of the EU Presidency we want to demonstrate that the EU is able to act. Our aim is to boost confidence within and outside the EU. For this reason we want to tackle issues which concern Europe's citizens-growth and employment, social security and safety in the face of threats at home and from abroad.
However, we also want the EU to become mindful of its inner strength. To achieve this we will take an important step in Berlin on 25 March. The Berlin Declaration, which will mark the 50th anniversary of the EU, will express what I have described.
Lv: What progress has Germany made during the first half of its term of office as EU Presidency?
Steinmeier: One important step was the decision of 9 March to take bold action in the fight against climate change and specifically to cooperate closely in the area of energy policy. If other countries are prepared to come with us, we intend to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020. In addition, we want 20% of our energy requirements to be covered by renewable energies.
With regard to foreign policy, we have helped revive the Middle East Quartet and succeeded in encouraging the EU to increase its efforts to resolve the Middle East problem. We also want to do what we can to resolve the Kosovo issue. We believe the proposals of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari offer a way to bring peace to Kosovo in the long term. Nonetheless, it is clear that Kosovo is a special case which must be examined on its own merits.
Lv: The EU integration process keeps presenting new problems. What can Germany do to resolve these problems?
Steinmeier: Europe now comprises 27 Member States. It therefore needs rules to allow decisions to be taken quickly in important areas and at the same time to increase the transparency and legitimacy of our action. The constitutional treaty, which was signed by all Member States in 2004, provides the solution. It has now been accepted by 18 states, but two have rejected it through referenda. We soon want to submit a compromise proposal containing the essence of the constitutional treaty. Our goal is for there to be a new treaty by 2009, on the basis of which the elections for the European Parliament can take place.
Lv: What will Germany do during its EU Presidency to further develop relations between Germany and China and between the EU and China?
Steinmeier: The EU and China have been conducting negotiations on a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement since January. This Agreement is designed to reflect the whole palette of bilateral relations. Within the framework of our strategic partnership, we want to invite China to show even more commitment in the international arena and to see itself more clearly as a co-player in an effective multilateral international order. Africa and environmental issues, for example, would be possible areas for such cooperation.
In extending economic relations we are eager to see qualitative as well as quantitative expansion. Voluntary technology transfer by European companies, improved protection of intellectual property and greater opening of the Chinese market for EU service providers are the key words here. We are also, in a spirit of partnership, offering to actively support China's internal transformation process towards the rule of law, respect of human rights, adherence to market economy regulations and sustainable development.
As the issue of human rights continues to play a key role in the EU's relations with China, the 23rd round of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue will take place in Berlin during the German EU Presidency. Within the extended framework of this dialogue, European and Chinese academics and experts will convene for a seminar focusing on these issues on 10 and 11 May, in the awareness that positive economic development must have a sound legal foundation if it is to last.
By Lv Hong, the People's Daily's Germany-based correspondent